Germany’s vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, says talks about a major trade deal between the European Union and the U.S. have failed, though “nobody is really admitting it.” That statement should be taken with a grain of salt, but the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership appears to be doomed, at least until after elections in the U.S. and major European countries.
Gabriel’s Economy Ministry is not involved in the TTIP negotiations. He also is the leader of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, the coalition partner of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union but also its biggest political rival. Germany has a general election next year, and polls show a 10-11 point lead for the CDU over Gabriel’s SPD, so it’s in the vice chancellor’s interest to kick off the political season early and try to score points by taking popular positions. He is, for example, also calling for a cap on the number of refugees Germany will accept — an unusual position for a leftist, but one that the German public considers reasonable and Merkel rejects.
Denouncing the TTIP looks like a similar ploy: The trade deal’s negative rating in Germany reached 59 percent late last year. “As Europeans, we mustn’t, of course, submit to American demands,” the vice chancellor said in an interview with the German TV channel ZDF.